Soil School: Profitability mapping for conservation

For years, Tim Williams has dutifully planted crops to the edge of the trees and bush that line the fields he farms near Petrolia, Ont.

Every year, he looks at his yield maps to see the same red line indicating no crop yield in these areas that hug the bush and woodlots. But today there are far fewer red lines on his yield maps, thanks to a new management approach — something he calls profitability mapping for conservation.

In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Soil School, Williams describes how he turned these no-yield areas into permanent grassland buffers and headlands that benefit both his pocketbook and soil health.

Williams estimates that the permanent grass areas save him the $250 per acre required to plant soybeans in these areas. The headlands or buffer strips also provide an essential travel corridor for grain buggies, trucks, and equipment turning to reduce compaction. In one soybean field, Williams pegs the value of reduced field compaction at two bushels per acre. The buffer strips also help better manage the flow of water off his minimum and no-till fields. The strips also produce a small hay crop to feed livestock.

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